In spring 2011 the first major campaign of a new mosaics conservation project at the archaeological site of Bulla Regia, Tunisia, was conducted. A major goal of this project is to carry out, for one or more houses that feature mosaics, an in situ conservation program that could serve as a model for conserving and presenting an entire archaeological structure and its architectural decoration. The Bulla Regia project stems from ten years of technician training and mentoring activities undertaken by the GCI and the Institut National du Patrimoine and is a component of the MOSAIKON project, a collaboration of the GCI, ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property), ICCM (International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics), and the Getty Foundation.
Bulla Regia is one of the major Roman- and Byzantine-period cities of North Africa, located near the Mejerda River in a fertile valley just over the coastal mountains south of the modern port of Tabarka. The site presents impressive remains of public buildings, such as baths and temples, as well as large private houses, famous for their underground rooms built around courtyards containing well-preserved and elegant figurative and geometric mosaics. One of these houses, the Maison de la Chasse, is the focus of the project's mosaic conservation activities. The majority of the conservation work in the Maison de la Chasse will be carried out over the next three years by GCI-trained mosaic maintenance technicians, highlighting their skills and the importance of the work of local technicians for the successful and sustainable conservation and maintenance of mosaics at major sites like Bulla Regia. The technicians' work will be planned, supervised, and supported by conservator-instructors from the GCI and from consultants.
Another major goal of the project is to develop a conservation plan for the three hundred excavated mosaics at the site. Many of these, after decades of exposure and being walked on, are in very poor condition, with some already beyond repair. The limited human and financial resources of the site necessitate developing and carrying out a prioritized plan to stabilize and protect, through reburial, the majority of mosaics at the site, while conserving and presenting to the public only a selected few. To this end, during the April campaign, field trials of a rapid survey form were carried out in preparation for surveying all mosaics during future campaigns. The condition and significance data collected for each mosaic throughout the survey will provide the basis for decisions to conserve the mosaics at the site through a combination of reburial, protective sheltering, and maintenance programs. The survey will provide a much-needed planning tool for Bulla Regia and serve as a planning model for other sites in Tunisia and the Mediterranean region with significant collections of in situ mosaics.
For more information on MOSAIKON, visit the "Our Projects," "Current Projects" section of the GCI website.